Safe Under Angels Wings

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About the author

Shannon Cruz

I joined the Air Force in January 1994. I volunteered to take the Physical Fitness Test for one of the warrior airmen careers, first Pararescue but then as a Terminal Attack Control Party (TACP) airman. I then attended technical training at Hulburt Field, Florida. After tasks, tests, field events, and training were completed, and four maxed physical fitness tests (PT), I graduated with Honors and went to my first duty station Fort Riley Kansas as a Conventional TACP attending survival school, airborne school, and air assault school. After five years in Kansas, I had a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) to Korea, then to Pope Air Force Base to support Fort Bragg. I went to the newly-named Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) course to officially become a JTAC supporting 82nd Airborne, initially with Close Air Support. I attended the Static Line (SL) Jump Master and Military Free Course (HALO). Then I was attached to Corp Long Range Reconnaissance and made the selection to become a Special Operations Forces (SOF) JTAC. I initially augmented the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne). Then I had a PCS (permanent change of station) to Fort Lewis Washington to be assigned to the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne). There I became a JTAC Instructor and attended a Military Free Fall Jump Master Course. Then came another PCS, next to Yuma Proving Grounds, AZ, in a particular duty assignment as a Free Fall Instructor and in the Advanced Free Fall Instructors course. From there, I went into the Texas Army National Guard to fly Blackhawk helicopters in Austin, Texas. I Joined the TX parachute demonstration team in Texas. Eventually I went to Army flight school at Fort Rucker. Time passed, and I ended my career to retire at Fort Bragg, now as a Warrant Officer and pilot in the Army.
In March 2014, I retired from the Army, shy of 21 years of honorable service. The highest awards earned are 3 Bronze Stars, 2 with Valor, and nine deployments in combat. I was in 13 firefights, calling in Close Air Support, commanding the release of over 300,000 lbs. of bombs from Close Air Support aircraft. After military retirement, I initially got rated in the two- and four-seat piston Robinson helicopter because I did not have much helicopter time.
I flew tours to build hours at Port Canaveral (Florida Air Tours) and Myrtle Beach (Ocean Front). With enough time built, I flew Bell 407 helicopters Oil & Gas on the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico for PHI. What followed was the Rotary Transition Program to fly jets—the Embraer 175 for the airlines with envoy owned by American Airlines American Eagle Brand. Covid hit, and after I was furloughed, flew A-Star helicopters for Air Methods Emergency Medical Service. Finally, I worked for AAR flying Huey and Blackhawk helicopters as a contractor supporting the Department of State in Iraq.
I currently have over 3700 flight hours as a helicopter and Airplane Pilot. In service, I got my associate degree from the Community College of the Air Force and a Bachelor of Science degree from Excelsior College.